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Title: Italy’s elite and Malta : an evaluation of the state of readiness of Italian elite units in Operazione Malta Due and preparations for Esigenza C3 during the Second World War
Authors: Falzon, Gianluca Giorgio
Keywords: Malta -- History -- Siege, 1940-1943
World War, 1939-1945 -- Malta
World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, Italian
World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Malta
Issue Date: 2019
Citation: Falzon, G. G. (2019). Italy’s elite and Malta : an evaluation of the state of readiness of Italian elite units in Operazione Malta Due and preparations for Esigenza C3 during the Second World War
Abstract: Italy’s armed forces could have entered the Second World War with strong military traditions. The perils the Regno faced during the Great War brought about a complete rethinking of its military’s offensive tactics. The creation of the Reparti d’Assalto and the first MAS units had a profound effect on the war effort against the Central Powers. Truly, such tactics were quite ahead of their time, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assert that they would have fit in well with the even more asymmetrical methods of warfare characterizing the following conflict. Instead, however, the Reparti d’Assalto were disbanded after the war, whilst the efforts of the MAS units and other Italian maritime sabotage operatives interpreted as wartime expediencies against an Austrian fleet in the Adriatic initially led to nowhere. One cannot talk about the effect of the Second World War on the Italian war effort or, at least, its fate in the Mediterranean, without discussing the role of the British base in Malta in all of this. The aerial siege, a three-year-long ordeal experienced by hundreds of thousands, is no forgotten memory. But the attempted Italian incursion of the night of the 25th and 26th July 1941? Perhaps not so much. And the plans for the invasion of Malta? It would not be too arduous to imply that most underestimate such plans today, or would guess that they were never drafted, to begin with. Yet during the few years preceding and following the start of the war, the Italian military was hard at work from the ground up, or, as it also happened, the other way around, to seek a way to end the threat that was the tiny island standing in the way of Italian naval supremacy in the Mare Nostrum. Inevitably, the hopes of raiding and storming the island fortress, at one point considered by the Italian Navy to be a ‘Maginot’ of the Mediterranean, led to the Italian military leaders to consider the involvement of new elite units. Malta’s harbours were notoriously heavily-defended. There was no other way than to send a secret weapon to prove their vincibility. This was the Decima Flottiglia MAS. Directly improving on sabotage technology of the previous war, it’s safe to say that for an Italian unit in the first years of conflict, there was much in the Decima Flottiglia that was both novel and promising. But the intended incursion, Operazione Malta Due, was a failure. The weather led to the island’s radar defences spotting the raiding convoy early, and the defences were thus on alert. Italian aircraft promised support in the operation, but it was a lacklustre attempt to stop an otherwise unavoidable massacre. But whilst much work has been done on uncovering the reasons for this failure, little has proven that the Italian aerial forces meant to support the operation truly did or could do little to help. In the grand scheme of the island’s siege, the Navy knew too well that neither the first six months of bombing by the Regia Aeronautica nor the first blitz of the Luftwaffe could rest its mind easy on the danger posed by a British Malta on Italian convoys. Prewar and earlywar considerations of an investment of Malta were swiftly revived, and much effort was directed towards forming both a concrete invasion plan and assembling an expeditionary force suitable for the task. In 1940, the studies had already mentioned paratroopers, but by mid-1942, the plan had succeeded to bring together not only an ItaloGerman air corps of two parachute divisions but also hardened naval assault infantry and special detachments of pioneers, combat swimmers and specialist infantry. Nevertheless, few sources treat the subject of the planned invasion, Operazione C3, as a serious undertaking. Fewer still have done more than merely assemble a chronicle of discussions, meetings and studies regarding the invasion plans. And none have attempted to analyze the state of readiness of the expeditionary force and contrast this with the island’s garrison in mid-1942. None have placed the plans in the proper context on a map, taking into account the chronology of the plan; the island’s geography and topography; and the likelihood of opposing forces and their respective orders of battle. The truth is one that has been dismissed by many: the threat of invasion was real and close; a sizeable invasion force was truly assembled; and, should Operazione C3 have been launched, it would have most likely come at the best possible time for the Axis in the Mediterranean, so far as the year 1942 was concerned.
Description: M.A.HISTORY
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2019
Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2019

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